I once read in an article that Kendrick Lamar is “serious like a heart attack” when he’s on stage. Since then I didn’t miss a single video of Kendrick’s live performances, I actually binged that. Studying every gesture and step he takes: what he’s wearing, who’s on stage with him… I mean, I woke up at 7 am on a summer vacation day to watch his live Coachella performance. It’s safe to say we might have a case of unhealthy obsession here.
This Damn obsession first started with the Compton rapper releasing “The Heart Part IV”. That song was on heavy rotation until Humble finally dropped and we could move on and get high on something else. The excitement around that album was so intense I even started to doubt Kendrick: “Will he be able to surpass To Pimp A Butterfly? And what about Good Kid Mad City that became an instant classic?”
I hope he forgives me for ever doubting him, because I cannot.
As Damn dropped, we started obsessing about the tour, praying every night to sweet Jesus that the rapper makes it to Europe. We still do not know if the sweet Jesus had something to with this, but the European tour was announced and only seconds later we went broke. But we got seated spots tho, priorities matter.
You know that feeling that instantly tickles in you when the lights go off in the concert hall and you leave your sentence unfinished and start shouting like someone just told you to? The tension in the hall gets higher and you glance up to your friends to share the mutual excitement:” FUCK IT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!”
During the few minutes it took him to appear on stage, I thought my impatience was going to make me puke. Yes, it was that intense.
And there it was, a sudden explosion followed by some thick white smoke in the middle of the stage. “He’s Houdini now too?”. The answer is yes. He’s everything he decides to be as he proved on this “The Damn Legend of Kung Fu Kenny” short film divided in three parts: which started with Kenny showing off his Kung-Fu moves and ended with him finding his true happiness in life (I challenge those who didn’t go to the concert to guess what it is).
The Kung-Fu-movie inspired atmosphere fits perfectly into his new alter-ego of Kung-Fu Kenny first announced on Mike WiLL Made-It’s track, Perfect Pint, shortly before dropping Damn the album. Not only is he the best in his musical category for the moment, but he’s actually a good actor too. I wish there were some footage of Kendrick’s rehearsals for the short film because that looked like hard work, not like a choreography you can learn in a couple of hours.
As the first part of the short film touches its end and switches to the original footage of the DNA song’s introduction, Kendrick appears majestically by imposing his presence to us. No superficial “What’s up guys?” or “Let me see your hands up”. No. Even these sentences were scheduled for special purposes. In a couple of words: Kendrick understands the public can’t get enough of him and he doesn’t intend to waste his fans’ time.
Besides the mind blowing visuals (sometimes even a little uncomfortable to watch) or the stage set spitting fire following the music’s rhythm, the concert version of the songs were also an extra. The guitars and drums gave it an additional taste of authenticity.
Let’s be honest, that’s why rap concerts can sometimes be deceiving: the sound doesn’t fit into a big hall. Like some rock bands sound less impressive in their studio versions compared to their live performances.
But Master Kendrick figured it out: live performances deserve an extra touch of acoustic greatness. Also the atmosphere was beyond a standard concert: it was also an art and dance show. This ninja-dressed-persona popping-up out of nowhere to menace Kendrick with his huge samurai sword during his DNA performance, is an example of serious choreography art.
During the performance of the song “XXX”, a white shadow appears behind the rapper as the beat drops and the police sirens start yelling.
Side note: The dancer’s outfit is quite similar to Haku’s (Haku = white in Japanese) costume in the anime series “Naruto”. This conclusion added an extra dose of excitement to my already turned-up state.
Kendrick’s “Haku” even got a personal and intimate moment on stage during a solo dance performance which kept the public busy while Kendrick was focusing his Khi to turn into a Super-Sayan for his next set. Because it was time to ask some people to sit down.
As Humble started, the hall went complete nuts. Kendrick Lamar let the public sing along to the lyrics on their own before taking over from the top for a second time. The purpose of the seated places was also to avoid the mosh-pits and admire them from far. Goal reached: it was truly overwhelming to witness this amount of energy circulating in that space. Energy which we old fucks in our twenty’s don’t have anymore (or at least that’s what we think).
The Compton rapper seems to care about his work and even more about on the impact it has on his fans. Realizing his influence by saying “Look what we can do all together, you’re the reason we came down here all the way from California”.
He does move like a human god and is entertaining like your favorite show, but still he stays humble towards his public. “I’m not any better than any of you here”, and it felt good to hear that. As much as it felt good to hear him say “I love each one of you here”. No one enjoys unrequired love.
I might sound corny, but I feel grateful being able to participate in that event which I will surely never forget and talk about to my kids. I can already picture it:
“… and that’s how mummy witnessed an important moment in U.S. rap history”
“So… that’s why we broke now?”
Yep, it would be something like that.